Saturday, December 11, 2010


Do you say please and thank you?

Or do you raise your voice and answer the recorded questioner impatiently, finding yourself getting angry with the voice?

Are you ever rude. when you've been put on hold and then, put on hold again by the phone company, or TV cable people?

Do you ever lose your temper, I mean, get really angry -- snarky with a sing-song, snotty voice that's just a voice, not the management -- it's just a not-very-bright underling telling you no one can help you with your problem?

I did a blog, 5/15/09, praising myself out loud, hoping my blog readers could learn from Em's politeness-principles, how to reach out to people.

I said:
I mean it when I say 'thanks,' or 'glad to meet you,' or 'I appreciate your help.'

I wrote:
I usually make small conversation -- 'your diction's good' -- 'you seem to know all the answers to my questions' -- 'have you been working here for long?' Or if person's hard to understand -- 'what country are you in? India? The Philippines?'

I explained:
I always thank the techies. And try to express my appreciation in a spur of the moment, fun way. Making contact with strangers in rooms in other parts of the world I'll probably never see, -- it's a way of spreading kindness, friendship and PEACE all over the world.

Yep, the idea of making contact with strangers seemed important.

Uh huh ... Yay for me! But nowadays I'm impatient. I am not exactly rude but I sire ain't bending over backwards to be friendly, cheery.

I've got too many things that require fixing, updating, repairing, or replacing. And dammit, the phone people/the helpers seem incompetent.

And I'm not cheerful. I feel not good about the state of the world, about people in faraway countries. I sense that no one in the world these days, is comfortable, safe, secure -- disease is rampant, new wars are imminent and we're already fighting two, and people I like are changing.

Even the ones who aren't race-prejudiced are turning against the President because there's a general trend -- to question, not to trust, to double-think each major or minor everything -- should we switch to nuclear energy? should we find a way to punish Korea before Korea turns into another Iran, which is vaguely like Iraq ? All this to spread democracy in those two countries plus Afghanistan, that doesn't work for them?

Yay, Democ's okay, but gee, I don't like the stodgy faces of the Repubs -- the new old guys sitting in the seats in congress -- over-fed, semi-rich-men spouting theories so cluttered with cliches that it's just lumpy, cheesy residue clogging my ear.

Hey! Okay! I am done with this tirade!

I am going to smile, not frown! I am going to say please and thank you and speak in calm, nice-lady polite, thoughtful , friendly-lady tones to delivery guys, help lines, and my dear old friends.

Uh oh ... It sounds like a New Year's Resolution ...

Well, if it is, I won't let it melt away, disappear, as resolutions do. Gonna keep that smile string around my finger no matter what. I'll accomplish more that way!

Friday, December 10, 2010


Be an actor. "Play" self confidence. It's in your entrance -- the size of your stride. The stride needs to be compatible with your height.

Take in the room boldly.

Sit down if you're asked to have seat. Glance at the indicated chair, and sit unhurriedly. Relax (not slumping), letting your arms fall across your lap with your hands relaxed. If it's an armchair, use it with tensionless arms and hands.

If you're standing, don't try to relax by hugging yourself, or tilting your head. Stand tall, You can lightly clasp your hands, not tightly or with prayerful palms. If you have pockets, put a hand in a pocket, or use both pockets. One pocket however, gives you a better, more confident look.

(I do not recommend standing tall, with your arms hanging at your sides. Even if you are an actor in a play, and your director directs you to let your arms hang, it is very difficult to do.)

"Psychology Science Magazine," in a recent article titled "Feeling Timid and Powerless," said, "In the animal kingdom, the alphas often convey their dominant status through posture. They rise to their full height, stick out their chests and in a bird's case, for instance, fan their tail feathers, all to take up as much space as possible and establish their powerful presence. The weaker omegas, on the other hand, bow down low, tucking in their limbs and tails and signaling their submission."

(Take a look at yourself -- are you reading this crunched down, with your limbs and tail signaling relaxation, or submission?)

In the current issue, Dr. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist who coauthored the study "Power Posing," said, "Power positions -- like putting your palms down on a table while standing, reclining in a chair with your hands behind your head and your feet on the table -- won't make you the next Donald Trump. But a power position can foster a frisson of fortitude in which the poser experiences a spike in testosterone and lower levels of cortisol, creating an optimal hormonal balance that leads to a sense of more power and a desire to take risks."

Readers, cortisol is your stress hormone; no matter what gender you are, your testosterone can spike. Try it, and see for yourself.

As I'm typing this, I have a pencil in my teeth -- I read in the magazine, that with a pencil in your teeth, (it forces your face muscles into a smile), you will feel happier. I do feel happier.

Send me a message with a pencil in your teeth, and check it out. Then, smiling, tuck the pencil behind your ear, and practice the power positions.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I arrived in Bogata, Colombia as a guest of the country. I was under US State Department auspices.

As I entered the arrivals area of the airport, I passed through a row of men in uniforms, face masks, shields, who were standing stock still, holding guns.

I looked around for a State Department representative. No one was there.

I didn't know that the U.S., at that point, was not getting along with the Colombian government. No one had notified me -- maybe they'd tried to contact me after I left New York, and gone to Durban, South Africa. My performances in South Africa were not arranged by the state department -- they'd been arranged by me.

I wanted to perform my big solo, Mahler's Fifth Symphony, with full orchestra, ninety musicians on the stage -- I wanted the feeling of being surrounded by sound. I'd read about the conductor in Medellin, written him, and arranged two performances for a fee (it was called an honorarium), that would cover airfare and hotel expenses.

While I was applying for a visa, the head consul at the Consulado General Central de Colombia en New York, a black-haired, tall, fortyish, expensively dressed, handsome man , asked me, more or less, for a date.

In my Maria-Callas-of-the Dance mode, (a critic had called me that; it was inscribed on all my advance publicity), I was maybe a little flippant, but I felt glamorous, and knew I looked glamorous. Laughing, I brushed him off with some sort of sophisticated remark about being a super-busy professional dancer.

He was annoyed as he asked for my height. weight, age, hair, eye color, address, marriage status, (all of which was on my passport), and what was my purpose in Medellin. I explained I was dancing to Mahler's Fifth -- two performances -- I was going to be given an honorarium, of $1000 for each performance -- a total of $2000.00.

He issued me a visa. I didn't know until much later, that it was a "work" visa that required me to stay in Colombia for 3 months.

I'd shipped my baggage a week earlier from Durban, South Africa to Bogata, where it would be forwarded to Medellin. It was a 70 minute solo; it needed the 10 fabulous costumes, and dozens of props, like the huge china-silk cape in the picture, that I lift and float over the stage with the final chords of the music.

In Medellin, I saw my things -- large green trunk, blue canvas ski bag that contained poles, 3 duffel bags, the blue hat box for my head gear -- they were stacked behind a locked gate. The porter shrugged and summoned the head of security, an unfriendly, snarling official who looked like a tall James Cagney. He said my baggage was being shipped to Lima, Peru, since I hadn't applied for permission to bring foreign goods into the country.

Whoo -- it was scary! I tried to explain that I couldn't perform the Mahler without my things. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

I called the State Department; they told me to contact the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. I phoned -- couldn't understand the operator. I hired an interpreter, a student who was waiting for a plane. He told me the embassy was closed until "trade regulations" problems were solved. From an airport pay phone, I tried the State Department again, but I ran out of coins. I'd given the student one of the three twenties I had in my purse. The money changer machine wasn't working -- the money changing desk at the airport was closed. I had traveler's checks, but when I tried to cash them, people behind the counters just shook their heads.

I called my Medellin sponsor. The orchestra rehearsal was that night. He knew from the brochures and photos I'd sent him, that the costumes and props were essential. We both knew the performances would have to be canceled.

I realized that if I didn't get my baggage, my next performances -- three nights in Buenos Aires -- were going to be canceled.

"Don't panic," I told myself, drying my eyes, rubbing away the smudged mascara, redoing my makeup.

At the Varig Airlines ticket-counter, I made friends with the ticket girl. She fixed my ticket -- arranging for me to fly to Lima in three hours, and in Lima to connect with another flight to Buenos Aires.

Watching the clock and dozing, I waited in a huge empty waiting room till my flight to Lima was called.

At the glass door entrance gate, two uniformed soldiers with shields and guns were standing guard. A third solider with a shield and gun was checking passports. As I handed him mine, tall James Cagney -- oh no -- there he was again, tapping my shoulder. He informed me that I could not leave the country without permission from the police.

He escorted me to the police station just outside the airport. They fingerprinted me. In an inner office, the Chief of Police questioned me, winking and grinning at me, as if I were a prostitute -- age, height, eye color, weight, profession, was I married, did I have a protector. When I didn't respond, he said I couldn't leave until I paid taxes on my earnings. I said I hadn't earned anything. A uniformed soldier handcuffed me, escorted me to another room, and pointed to a bench.

I sat on a bench filled with other arrestees, who were crying, smoking, spitting, cursing, complaining, scratching, talking with relatives. One relative said he was a lawyer --"I help you." Two hours later, he told me I had to pay taxes on three months of income. The Consul had put down my "star" earnings as $2,000 a week x 36 weeks.

What a nightmare! I don't speak Spanish. The lawyer and the tax agent didn't speak English. What they were yelling at each other was over my head. Finally, I gave my lawyer the $500 I had in travelers checks. Somehow, he negotiated a satisfactory payment and paid himself off as well.

Back at the gate, James Cagney stopped me again. "You cannot leave until the Consul stamps your passport." When, Sir?" "After the holiday, Madame." "What holiday, what office, Sir?" When he said it was "The Consulada Central Central de Columbia en New York," I burst into tears. People where staring, pointing. A crowd was gathering. I rushed into the ladies restroom.

The Varig ticket-girl saw me at the sink, trying to repair my makeup. Tears rolling, I babbled about James Cagney, consuls, soldiers, Chief of Police, horrible lawyer, performances in Medellin, performances in Buenos Aires. She pointed to the streaks of mascara on my cheek and said, "You fix makeup. He is my boyfriend. I take care of it."

And she did.

In Lima the porter said the baggage room was closed for the three-day holiday. There I was back in the nightmare, weeping, till a man named Emilio Guersey (never will I forget the name), took me to the locked baggage room. My bags were there! Emilio, who was the security officer, simply unlocked the door. Emilio loaded my bags on a cart -- green trunk, ski bag, 3 duffels, blue hat box, and settled me and all my baggage in the first class section of a British Airways plane for Buenos Aires.

The memories of all that -- the terror of being a stranger in a strange country, the luck, the miracle of finding Emilio in Lima, Peru, and then the excitement and glamor of dancing in Buenos Aires -- the cheers, parties, men and women saying they loved me, a musician proposing marriage, an adoring manager -- the man who arranged the performances, presented me with a gigantic bouquet of roses. Explaining that the check would be sent to my manager in New York, he knelt and kissed my hand.

Well, the Maria Callas of Dance triumphed, but I am still waiting for the check from the Agentinean manager. It was definitely a bunga adventure.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy, can been seen naked in this painting, dallying with Mara Carfagna, a female minister, whom he once said he would like to marry. (It's his face and hers on the torsos.)

Reproductions of this painting have been on display everywhere in Italy. "Bunga-bunga" is what's going on in Italy.

(The term sounds sooo out-of-date ... sixties ... heavy drinking, sex, let it all hang out ... it's not in the dictionary, but it's IN in Italy! )

Silvio Berlusconi and many other semi-naked ladies can be seen on prime-time news in Italy, where the 74-year-old Prime Minister uses his power, his position, and his own libido, to display his fantasies.

Italians are enjoying television with belly dancers, hookers, teenagers imitating hookers, and big-breasted Italian women, during the news, as well as in the commercials.

The Prime Minister is having a ball. He has 95 % of the TV market under his control. He's not only shaping the way Italian women are seen, he's also shaping the way they see themselves.

Alas, it echoes and reverberates. Other countries, and many other Europeans are promoting gender equality, and there's Silvio, jitterbugging, boogieing, bump-and-grinding around -- showing everyone that women are hot-to-trot sex objects.

Right now, Italy is the 74th worst country in the world, in terms of gender equality -- lower than Colombia, Peru, and Vietnam.

(Yow ! Colombia -- the worst of the worst as far as I'm concerned. I was trapped there with a wrong visa the Consul deliberately gave me, so that I couldn't leave the country -- what a nightmare!
Maybe I'm overly sensitive about women being treated as sex objects, because of what happened to me in Colombia! )

Well, that's a post to tackle some other time.

In Italy, an entire generation has grown up in a society where soft-core porn is part of the daily news. It’s been 23 years since Berlusconi’s introduced voluptuous women, known as "veline" -- literally “scraps of paper” -- parading through the news segments.

Today in Italy, showgirls appear on every channel. Some, appointed by Berlusconi, actually have official positions in the government. Polls show that young Italian girls are dreaming of becoming TV veline -- not doctors, lawyers, or business owners.

Though his government has tried to reduce Italy's rising domestic violence, Berlusconi apologizes for Italy's growing rape problem, saying with a grin, “We don’t have enough soldiers to stop rape, because our women are so beautiful.”

When the soon-to-be ex–Mrs. Berlusconi, Veronica Lario, protested her husband’s behavior, the right-wing newspaper headlines called her an “ungrateful showgirl,” and splashed topless pictures of her from her former career on their front pages. (Yes, Italy's first lady was a topless actress.)

Will Berlusconi be ousted? He's the Western world's and Europe's richest head of government, and can buy, apparently, whatever support he needs. The opposition party keeps saying he won't win again, but they said that four years ago.

Anyhow, the ancient roads, old towns, churches, shops, homes -- Italy is like venturing into a history book. But Silvio Berlusconi and bunga-bunga make it a no-no place -- not for me to visit again.

London's Sunday Telegraph, November 28, has a fascinating article --"New penis for statue in Silvio Berlusconi's Rome office." The reporter writes: "The reported cost to taxpayers of the restoration – 70,000 Euros ($92, 574) – prompted criticism at a time when the Italian government has slashed millions of Euros from the country's arts and heritage budget, and parts of Pompeii are crumbling into dust.

"The 6ft-high sculpture, which dates from around AD175 and stands next to a similarly proportioned statue of Venus, is on loan from a museum and displayed in Palazzo Chigi, Mr. Berlusconi's office in central Rome.

"The marble Roman statue of Mars has had its snapped-off penis rebuilt and reattached on the specific orders of the prime minister. The new penis has been fitted with a magnet so that it can be easily removed if, in the future, a more comprehensive restoration is carried out ... when the statues return to the Baths of Diocletian museum in Rome.

"They replaced a hand which had broken off Mars and also restored a hand that was missing from Venus."

Well, history books say that penises were often hacked off ancient Roman statues, either as souvenirs or out of prudishness. So the Bunga-bunga guy is ... well ... he's a prudishness fixer, who dearly loves works of art.

Okay, tune in tomorrow, and I'll tell you about works of art and bunga, in Colombia.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I think "green." Aside from conserving water, paper, recycling, and using the swirly energy-saver bulbs -- though they don't illuminate reading material as well as old fashioned bulbs do -- I have a "green" thumb.

Oh dear, alas ... the Bonsai plant that the producers gave my husband, John, on the opening night of his show, is sitting on the bench in my hallway, under the bright fluorescent in the ceiling. It is not doing well. It probably had a bad trip when John brought it home from the theater last week in a plastic grocery bag.

The soil was dry. Some of the tiny dark green leaves had already turned brown.

I've been greeting it in the morning. I feel the soil and RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO WATER IT. (Over watering is a plant Mother's greatest weakness.)

I use my fingers to brush the dead leaves away from the slender trunk, and flick -- oh, ever so lightly -- at any leaf that looks suspiciously tired.

Midday, when I go upstairs for more coffee, because I need a break, I spray it lightly, very minimally, but where spray is needed. A plant needs tender love and care.

I'll be tender loving, caring for it for a year or so. And even when it gets bedraggled, and its days are numbered, I won't throw it out. It's part of my life -- like the fish in our fish tanks. When a fish died, I missed it, mourned it for days. (I still miss George, our pike, and Goldy our year-old goldfish. )

What should I do?

Monday, December 6, 2010


"Sheconomy" -- the word makes me cringe. I didn't hear the word or see it until a week ago. I know that women are gaining stronger positions in business and earning more, but it's still a man's world -- or is it? Is there a new war, a new battle between men and woman?

"The Battle of the Sexes," a 1914 silent film, was directed by D.W. Griffith. "The Battle of the Sexes," a 1928 talkie, was a remake directed by Griffith. From the early thirties till the sixties when he died, James Thurber's cartoons depicting the battles between the sexes were in the New Yorker Magazine.

"The Battle of the Sexes" was a 1959 British comedy film starring Peter Sellers. "The War Between Men and Women," a comedy film starring Jack Lemmon, Barbara Harris, and Jason Robards, based on James Thurber's writings, was released and a hit in 1972.

So what about now?

I've seen numbers that prove women (or the homemaker person in a relationship), generally do the buying of cars, houses, financial services, electronic gadgets (such as cell phones and, computers), and buy the food, pharmaceuticals, clothing for the family, furniture, and decide where to vacation.

Statistic-makers collect information on all of the above -- analyze, filter, organize, and sell numbers to manufacturers, to the markets, as well as the purveyors, who develop, expand, and draw conclusions about the numbers so that the media -- advertisers and creators -- can cater to the female/homemaker person's taste and predilections, as defined by all this.

Yes, and all this is now being verified, sung, discussed, confirmed, by major PhD's, CEO's, prognosticators, (including the Woman's Congress, The Spectrum Group, Mass Mutual Financial Group, Fleishman-Hillard, PR and International Marketing, and

Okay, the numbers are proving that women, the "SHEs" have more, much more power than the men, the "HEs," who nowadays, are lagging a little, sagging, dragging behind. (But, be aware that this information is being manufactured by the manufacturers who buy the trends, and sell them back to you.)

Sheconomy, Heconomy are a money-money view of things promoting the war between the sexes. And we're still recovering from the previous White House, that sold us WAR, got us into WAR, made money-money on WAR!

I think that what's going on now with married hetero couples, unmarried roommates, gay couples, is a stronger-than-ever need for pleasure, for pretty things, happy moments, because of the real WARS -- fighting, attacking, warring in politics, and the grim realities about young men and women being killed in our wars.

The sexes are not at war. I think right now, in these scary times, people are trying to create peace, a home-sweet-home safe place.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Emily Frankel asks John Cullum who his favorite movie actors are.

John tosses off the names -- Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, Marlon Brando, Jimmy Stewart, and Cary Grant.

"But who did you want to be?" Emily wants to know.

John, somewhat hesitantly at first, reveals he never wanted to be like another actor, but movie acting was his dream.